Perinatal psychologists work with people regarding all aspects of pregnancy, birth and adjusting to life postpartum. Unfortunately infant loss is part of this journey for many of our clients. Infant loss describes a number of scenarios including but not exclusive to stillbirth, neonatal loss, embryo loss, miscarriage, and termination for any reason. Loss of an infant can be difficult for families to reconcile and make sense of. The experience of grief is a normal response to loss, and many people may experience shock, loneliness, feeling numb or empty, sadness, crying, frustration and irritability, confusion or denial (SANDS Australia).
In addition to these feelings, clients can also feel distressed in response to unhelpful beliefs that infant loss triggers such as erroneous beliefs regarding a woman’s body such as their body is unsafe or in some way defective. Rumination regarding potential causes of the loss can also contribute to some women believing that the loss is in some way their fault or could have been prevented. The loss of a baby is also a loss of a family’s hopes and dreams for that infant, and the future they imagined for themselves. This can raise existential questions for people when the life they imagined for themselves is different to their present experience.
Women who experience miscarriage can struggle with worries regarding what this might mean for future pregnancies and their fertility. The process of miscarriage can also be traumatic for some women, and can commonly occur during the first trimester when parents may not yet have shared their pregnancy with friends and family. This can mean that they are disclosing the pregnancy and loss at the same time in order to receive the support they need to cope with the loss. Trying to conceive again, and being pregnant after loss can also be experienced as anxiety provoking and protectively women can temper their feelings of excitement to protect themselves from further pain.
Infant loss also includes termination for medical reasons. For parents who experience this they can find themselves on the one hand knowing that they have made the right decision for themselves, their baby and their family, however may also struggle with feelings of shame regarding their decision while concurrently grieving the loss of a much wanted baby.
At the Centre for Clinical Psychology our perinatal psychologists offer a warm, non-judgemental space for clients to feel their grief, make sense of the loss and work through difficult feelings. Where infant loss has been experienced as traumatic, our psychologists also have the specialist skills to treat symptoms arising from traumatic experiences including for clients where a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be indicated.
TFMR Mamas – Supporting families after TFMR baby loss
The Pink Elephants Support Network – Miscarriage and Early Pregnancy Loss
Possum Portraits Inc. – Supporting parents after perinatal bereavement including parents sharing their stories
Red Nose Grief and Loss
SANDS – miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death support